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Multicooker chicken dinner provides weeknight advantage

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    Dijon chicken is a good beginner recipe for the Instant Pot.

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a recipe request or question about the Instant Pot. So, dear readers, today is the day for my starter recipe for you Instant Pot (multicooker, etc.) fans.

I’ll start by pointing out that we are really talking about an automated, easy-to-use electric pressure cooker. I hear a collective sigh of recognition from a whole generation of home cooks who have relied on a pressure cooker for years to deliver stews, chilies and braises to their families in quick order.

But for the rest of us who were freaked out by managing the pressure on the stovetop ourselves, fearing exploding hot liquids or bursts of scalding steam, an automated pressure cooker welcomes us into the fold. Cooking under high pressure speeds up the process quite a bit, meaning you can have tender braised meat in minutes instead of hours, which can be a boon for weeknight meals.

Should you decide to get an electric pressure cooker, here are a few tips. First, read the entire manual before you start cooking, even if you’re the type who never reads directions. It will explain how the cooker works, and give you step-by-step operating instructions.

Second, start with something easy that can’t be overcooked: stock or bone broth, for example. Load up the pressure cooker with bones and a few hunks of onion and celery, cover with water (don’t overfill), and set the timed cooker. (Exactly how long? It’s in the manual — see it’s paying off already!)

Next tip: Use less liquid than you would would when cooking on the stove, as there’s no evaporation in the sealed pot.

And don’t overcook. You can’t easily open the lid to check on your food’s progress, so be extra aware of the possibility of overcooking if you are combining tougher meat with tender vegetables.

Finally, be aware that “instant” is a bit of a misnomer. While “cook time” in any recipe is relatively short — today’s recipe for Instant Dijon Chicken only “cooks” for 10 minutes — you need to add the time it takes to come to pressure (5 to 15 minutes) plus time for natural pressure release.

You could manually release the pressure, which is quicker, but note that some recipes count on the natural release time to finish cooking. Also, manual release comes with steam and hissing; I don’t recommend it for a newbie.

With this recipe it will take 8 to 10 minutes for the cooker to come to pressure, plus 10 minutes of cooking time and 10 minutes of release time, so total cooking time will be near 30 minutes.

Just in case you thought dinner would be done in an actual instant.

Instant Dijon Chicken

  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped, about 3/4 cup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, wiped clean and halved
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Spray inside of an electric pressure cooker with olive oil. Place tomatoes, wine, tarragon, onion and garlic in pot and stir to blend.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then cut each thigh into three pieces. Place in pot over tomato mixture.

Top with mushrooms and carrots. Secure lid and close pressure valve. Set timer to 10 minutes at high pressure.

Allow pressure to release slowly (without moving the valve) for 10 minutes. Then carefully turn the pressure valve to open, releasing any remaining pressure.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid into a small bowl and whisk in Dijon mustard. Whisk mustard mixture into pot.

Top with additional tarragon, if desired. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 246 calories, 6 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 142 mg cholesterol, 941 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 32 g protein.

NOTE: To make this dish on the stove, simmer in a covered pot until meat is tender, 60-75 minutes.

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